Have you been onstage in New York City before?
Never have. It’s very exciting.
Do you think the play will change at all for the Brooklyn stage and audience?
I think we’re looking to present the productions as they’ve been conceived. But then, of course, the very presence of an audience changes things. The audience is the final cast member. That’s part of what’s great about theater—the story’s never told quite the same two nights running. I’m sure the same holds true for continents.
This play is being staged during a time of political battle and fracture here, with the presidential primaries going on. Do you see any connection between that situation and these plays?
I think these plays live on because that they have something to tell us about the way that we as human beings continue to get things wrong and continue to fail to govern ourselves effectively, and continue to allow vanity to get in the way of what should be a selfless act: the act of governance. All those themes become ever more tasty in any moment of political upheaval. I think Richard II and indeed all the plays in this cycle have lots to tell us about the frailty of our leaders, and I think that will have wonderful resonances to unpack as America considers who your next leader will be.
What do you think is the significance of timing this series to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death?
Shakespeare writes so richly and so accurately about being human that whenever you mount one of his plays, it seems to be relevant to now. You hear lines that you’ve never heard before. That’s the genius of them. That’s why we keep going back. They sing out at us, they reverberate with wherever we’re at as a society and as individuals. Obviously with it being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, you want to find ways of presenting his work that are particularly epic and special. I think presenting these four plays in sequence is that. You get to see the sweep of his genius. You get to see the extraordinary characters he creates, these individuals that are so recognizable even though they’re kings and knights and queens and in many ways quite remote from our modern domestic existences. They all seem absolutely human and they all seem to be us.
What are you up to after this? Anything you can tell us about Broadchurch?
As soon as I’ve done Richard II, I’ll be starting Broadchurch Season 3, which is about all I can tell you. I know nothing! I have no script. It’s always been the way we’ve made Broadchurch—the actors have been kept relatively in the dark. When you play a policeman who’s investigating a crime, it’s quite useful to have the information fed to you one episode at a time so you’re not playing the ending. I’m presuming it’s about a crime and that I’ll be investigating it, but to be honest I don’t actually know. It means I have to stop pretending or obfuscating with people like yourself. It’s easier not just to be proclaiming ignorance but actually be dwelling in ignorance.
See the play
The Royal Shakespeare Copmany marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death with a world tour of the four history plays that make up the so-called Henriad: Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II and Henry V. Gregory Doran directs them in rep, with a cast that includes David Tennant as Richard II, Antony Sher as Falstaff and Alex Hassell as Hal.